Tag Archives: lgbt

Thoughts on Privilege & Equal Rights

It simply can’t be denied that a great deal of our society, including the church, suffers from an ignorance of history and an inability to utilize logic when discerning truth from error, on all fronts. Just turn on the news (any network) or check your Facebook newsfeed. There is much to cloud our thinking today.

With all of the voices in our head and the messages bombarding us in our world (many of them cynical and angry), it seems that we’re no longer taught to think about things rationally (or from a faith perspective), but strictly from our gut and fickle human emotions.

Even the rationalists aren’t so rational anymore.

British comedian and actor, Ricky Gervais, tweeted this last February:

“Same sex marriage isn’t gay privilege, it’s equal rights. Privilege would be something like gay people not paying taxes, like churches don’t.”

Well, there you go. What’s unfortunate, and should be recognized, is that humor often has the power to slip misinformation by you, perpetuate nonsense, and get you laughing at the comedic rants of an atheist activist on an issue that is emotionally charged, without even stopping to consider if it’s a fair and reasonable assessment.

And notice that the church (the body of Christ) becomes the target.

It’s one thing to disagree and have an opposing opinion. It’s quite another thing to create bogus comparisons in order to get a laugh to stroke your own ego and gain followers to your cause. It’s not OK for any of us to do it.

I can’t help but notice the hyper-sensitivity to all things “privilege” in what is being passed off as a concern for social justice. I’m not denying that certain people or groups are (or have been) unfairly given an advantage over others.

I’m also not denying that some concerns about the so-called privileged are legitimate. I too feel a righteous indignation when a person is being treated unjustly because of race, gender, economic status, or creed.

What I want to challenge is the spirit of pervasive (albeit cryptic) individualism that turns every issue into one of privilege. Like the man who only saw nails to be pounded because all he had in his tool-belt was a hammer, so has become our society, even those “progressive” Christians who are upset about their fundamentalist upbringing and want to make a difference.

Those of us who were formerly conservative fundies, are in danger of becoming progressive fundies, which I’ve noticed is just a Liberal (in the theological sense) with a make-over. We can do better than that.

But still I see scores of Christians, many of whom I know personally and deeply love, leaving fundamentalism for what they believe to be a more authentic Christianity, but it’s really nothing more than ego-centric spirituality.

These folks struggle to envision a revitalized church that still maintains orthodox Christian teaching, so they take cues from the culture and join ranks with the growing mass of individualists who are becoming more self-centered and agenda-driven, even as I type up this blog post.

And in some cases… many have just left the Republican party and joined the Democratic party in their thinking. Hardly the Kingdom revolution that is needed in our personal lives and for a counter-cultural church practice.

So what is so wrong with Ricky Gervais’ comment?

I think Gervais is a funny guy, but I do wonder if Ricky knows anything about the historical reasons for privileging male-female marriage, and then why the church doesn’t pay taxes according to US law. After all, he is British.

It has nothing to do with “privilege” in the popular and polemical sense of the word, as it has been used to demonize those who affirm conjugal marriage.

The real reason is, like the historical institution of marriage, stretching back and affirmed by the ancient Greeks (i.e. Socrates, Plato & Aristotle), who were well aware of same-sex relationships, the church in America was given tax exemption status because it was recognized and affirmed as a private institution that served the public good of a democratic nation.

Therefore, there are historically certain “privileges” that have been afforded male-female marriage and the church because they are (or at least were) thought to be socially advantageous to society (e.g. procreation, broad domestic sharing, holistic human formation, moral & ethical stability, etc.).

That is the historical reasoning behind it, particularly the motivation behind US constitutional law. That’s not my opinion. That’s the fact of the matter. It has nothing to do with bigotry or deprivation of rights.

As far as Western civilization has been concerned in ages past, same-sex “marriage” infringes upon the moral and civic fabric of society and has nothing to do with “equal rights” for individuals (or same-sex attracted couples, threesomes, polygamists, etc.) but instead it’s about the good of the whole society, which means far more than one individual’s idea of personal freedoms and rights. This flies in the face of our self-absorbed culture that wants to believe we’re on the cusp of a great gay liberation, totally oblivious to history.

The ancient world understood this much better than we do today. And the church of the New Testament operated out of this collectivist mindset—putting the interest of the whole before individual “rights” to personal fulfillment.

This is what has been lost in the church discussion, as individualism and an obsession with personal freedoms, especially when it comes to sexual expression, has trumped the greater good. As the apostle Paul said, “I’m free to do anything, but not everything is beneficial” (1 Cor 6:12) for himself or for the whole of any group, especially those who belong to Christ.

In this case, and cases like it, I submit that “privilege” and “privileges” are not the same thing. Western society and culture has largely lost the ability to discern the difference between the two, as it has championed individual “rights” over and against the good of the collective whole.

It is my observation that this pervasive individualism, and the “personal freedoms” mentality, is currently the greatest threat and obstacle to churches in America maintaining New Testament Christianity. It is a battle between the Bill of Rights and the Christ of the Gospels—America vs. the Kingdom.

In the end we know who wins. So the question is… what side are you on?

Are we for Christ or against him? For the Kingdom or culture? I know… I know. That sort of language isn’t always right or helpful. But that’s now where we’re at in our churches. Let’s not forget that it’s the rhetoric of Jesus (Lk 11:23).

There is a growing segment of society that is deaf to this logic and moral reasoning. Nevertheless, we need to know that this goes far beyond the teachings of Christ and the beauty of the Christian faith.

I highly recommend reading What is Marriage?: Man & Woman: A Defense by Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson, and Robert George.

The book was first published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy. It is a formidable defense of traditional marriage that is based purely on reason, offering a philosophical and historical case for conjugal marriage.

The follower of Christ ought to be aware of Scripture—from Moses, Jesus, to Paul (e.g. Gen 2:18-24; Matt 19:1-11; Eph 5:25-31)—and the historic Christian tradition on marriage, but it’s also helpful to hear what reason and experience have to say—including the experiences of those who haven’t embraced the gay identity in order to remain faithful to their belief in Christ and the Scriptures. Those voices have been drowned out by the noise of LGBT activists.

As Paul said, walk as the wise in this dark world, not as the unwise (Eph 5:15-17). Brothers and sisters, rise above the culture and its use of words like “privilege” and “equal rights” to distort the truth. Instead, speak the language of Christ and the Kingdom and join a different movement that doesn’t shift the blame, point fingers, and use shame to get its way in the world.

We’ve not been appointed as moral guardians of society, but we are called to be moral guides by way of our example.

May the world look to our local congregations and see the difference, and hear real liberating language as we bless the poor of all races, the outcasts of every group, and those who demean us, even persecuting us for our faith.

D.D. Flowers, 2014.

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Support Us or You’re a Bigot?

If you read my blog much you know that I’m far from a right-wing Christian fundamentalist, but I also don’t espouse Liberal theology, nor am I a card-carrying member of the increasingly “progressive” branch of Christianity. I never liked cards anyway.

I see the whole of fundamentalism and “progressive” Christianity as two extremes—both missing the mark. Let me explain.

I grew up within a mild form of Fundamentalist Christianity, and I’m still surrounded by it here in Texas. It is known for being dogmatic, legalistic, obsessed with biblical inerrancy, militant in defending creationism, escapist in eschatology, and committed to nationalism and the Republican party.

For all its flaws, I do think that fundamentalism has been very forthright about the person and saving work of Jesus, even if that message is often a bit muddled with poor atonement theories and hell-fire, pulpit-pounding.

Nevertheless, a clarity about the person and work of Jesus is refreshing after you’ve been bombarded by many competing voices in the culture that wish to turn Jesus into a gnostic guru, a civil rights leader, or reduce him down to a social revolutionary, and nothing more. Liberalism at its finest.

Liberal Christianity today is really just a post-enlightenment version of Thomas Jefferson’s sanitized Jesus—a Jesus stripped of his divinity, his miracle-making, and muzzled from making exclusive truth claims.

If a person comes to believe in such things, they shouldn’t even call themselves a “Christian” anymore. If you can’t affirm Christ’s divinity, his saving power by the cross, and his literal resurrection… you’re not a Christian in any historical sense of the term. If you want to start the Church of Jefferson, fine. But please leave historic Christianity to us Christians.

Progressive Christianity has much to say in response to pop-culture evangelicalism. Progressives like Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo, Shane Claiborne, and many others need to be heard.

I can see and hear Jesus in these guys. I’ve benefited from them.

For example, I agree that the teachings of Jesus have been neglected and that doctrine (orthodoxy) has been emphasized over Christ-like living (orthopraxy). I believe that salvation begins in the here and now, that social justice is integral to discipleship, and that evangelicalism needs a more responsible biblical interpretive method.

I’m passionate about those things!

But I must say that I particularly take issue with how “progressives” have created a synthetic fog over a handful of biblical passages dealing with homosexuality, and seem to be using a “join-us-or-you’re-a-bigot” approach to responding to evangelicalism’s overall failure to love our gay neighbors.

Progressives appear to want nothing less than full support of the LGBT community, meaning that you agree that homosexuality is an acceptable way of being human, and that Jesus would approve of gay “marriage” (going beyond civil unions to the church blessing the relationship), or you’re “homophobic” and an enemy of all that’s good.

Let’s be honest. If this is the way progressives are going to frame the issue, reflecting the typical polarities of hot-button issues within politics, they are only going to perpetuate the vitriolic climate in society—a climate they say that they lament. But I do wonder if they’re not being just as divisive and dishonest as the folks over at Westboro Baptist.

Is it “bigotry” to disagree with someone on a moral/religious issue? Is it “hate” to believe another person’s life choices are destructive to that person and to society? Is it “homophobic” to believe that homosexuality is a sin like adultery, greed, or idolatry, and oppose elevating it to normal human behavior, as if it were an obvious evolution of mankind? Is it “intolerant” to want to maintain laws (church & state) that support a historical, time-tested institution (heterosexual monogamous marriage) for the good of society?

As many of you know, all of this has been leveled at those who disagree in any way with the LGBT community and her “progressive” supporters. I see a constant stream of this stuff on social networking and online magazines, especially in light of Rob Bell’s recent affirmation of gay marriage.

This is the message I’m getting: You’re either a supporter of LGBT or you’re likely an intolerant bigot who hates gay people.

I think this is unfair and dishonest. It leaves no room for a third way of responding to the LGBT community and those in our local communities that have embraced a gay identity. It claims that in order to love your gay neighbor you must accept their lifestyle.

Why must this be the case? Do I have to accept the violence, greed, and idolatry of my neighbor and enemies in order to love them? Of course not. So why should it be any different with gay folks in our communities? One extreme (fundamentalism) doesn’t justify another (liberalism).

If you consider yourself a “progressive” Christian, I want to encourage you to consider how LGBT supporters can be more honest and fair in their treatment toward those of us who disagree with you, but at the same time want to love their gay neighbor and accept them as created in God’s image.

Listen to Tim Keller represent a third way with grace and truth.

What do you think? Do you believe there is a third way that’s being overlooked? Please share your thoughts and experiences.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.


Addressing Homosexuality: A Third Way

I think both fundamentalists and “progressives” have abused, misused, and distorted the consistent biblical message of human relationships and homosexuality. And they’re making it impossible to reach a peaceful resolve.

The fundies have singled out homosexuality as the “abominable sin” and not loved like Christ. They have neglected what the Scripture says about divorce, and the most oft-mentioned sins of greed and idolatry. It’s a sin in and of itself, and it should be repented of now.

Greg Boyd addressed this here and here.

And others who believe themselves to be more loving and tolerant (believers proudly promoting LGBT community) have created a synthetic fog over something that I think couldn’t be more clearly written in Scripture (Gen 19: 4-29; Lev 18:22; 1 Cor 6:9-10; 1 Tim 1:8-11; Rom 1:26-27, etc.). They are trying to “love” their neighbor while disregarding truth.

Yes, I expect some backlash from those who think any claim to something being “clear” in Scripture is presumptuous, even wreckless. Nevertheless, I think some things are clear. I won’t apologize for that.

I suppose that those who want to claim this isn’t clear in the text would try to use that as reason to advance their cause. I think even if a person became convinced that the Scripture is unclear on this, it still doesn’t give them the go-ahead. It doesn’t make it acceptable behavior.

There is much in the Scripture that is open to interpretation, no doubt. Have you read Christian Smith’s book? We do have an issue with interpretive pluralism. There are many issues of theology that ought to be left open and discussed frequently. But I just don’t think this is one of those issues.

Honestly, there is a part of me that simply can’t believe we’re even having this discussion. Maybe it’s because the church has failed to love like Christ that it has even become what it is in our culture.

OK… OK… back to what I was saying about our dilemma.

One group singles out the sin (fundies), the other group imagines it’s not a sin (progressives). Both are wrong, and are only adding to the confusion–perpetuating the venomous cycle of hate speech toward those who disagree with them. Is this the best we can do?

The insistence that since Jesus is silent on the issue is very misleading. In the first place, this wasn’t an issue among first century Palestinian Jews. Why would Jesus speak directly to something that wasn’t even being debated? Even then there is no guarantee Jesus would enter the debate if there had been one. Instead, he would offer another way of confronting the issue. So, while Jesus doesn’t speak about it directly, he does mention it indirectly as he discusses the divine design of human relationships (Matt 19:4-6).

Secondly, Jesus also never says, “Thou shalt not smoke pot and have group sex.” So, what? You can’t build a case off of silence from Jesus. Besides, we serve a living Lord, not a book filled with arbitrary rules. Can we please stop treating the Bible like an operator’s manual?

If Christ truly resides within you, and you’re seeking to live out your faith in community, ask yourself: “Does Jesus and the universal church approve of my behavior?” That’s much different than doing what feels right or good, or even squabbling over what some feel are ambiguities in an inspired ancient text. It goes beyond the text to the living Jesus alive in a living church.

Not only does Jesus speak about the intentions of our God-given humanness, the creation testifies to the plain truth of intentional design for human relationships. But it will not stop people from exchanging the truth of God for a lie; even ignoring what is “clearly seen” in creation (Rom 1:18-32). There are some things that are not part of our God-given humanness, no matter how much we feel it, that should be forsworn.

Listen to N.T. Wright discuss this here.

So, while I think the biblical text is clear about human relationships—from Genesis to Jesus, from Paul to Revelation—I would propose that both may be assuming that divine revelation (Scripture) is enough or can by itself settle the issue. While I think the OT, as well as Jesus & Paul, are plain enough (even after doing historical-grammatical exegesis)… let’s allow for further revelation beyond the biblical text.

For me, what ought to settle the issue is a combination of divine revelation, natural revelation, historic Christian traditions, human reason and experience, and the present consensus of the church. All of these must align, in my opinion. And I see that they all (in the end) testify to a very clear expression of the divinely created order of human relationships.

Now, how should we respond as Christ followers? I think there is a way for those of us who believe in loving like Christ to do just that without affirming any sinful lifestyle that is destructive to mankind. That means we must discover a third way that looks like the love of Christ, and not some sappy sentimentality that rambles on about tolerance with no moral boundaries. Being judgmental and lax about sin (any sin) both miss the mark.

Let me be clear. There does in fact come a time to say with Jesus, “Go and sin no more.” But not before coming alongside others with a co-suffering love and seeing yourself in their own sin.

We must see sin as a misuse of our human energies. It’s a sickness… for all of us. It’s a distortion in our soul. It’s resurrection life hitting a snag. When we can see that, even in ourselves, then we can offer others a way out.

Let’s discover a third way, brothers and sisters. Lord, lead us.

D.D. Flowers, 2012.


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